JAKARTA, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Paper products giant Asia Pulp and Paper Group has pledged to stop all natural forest clearing in Indonesia.
APP's announcement Tuesday of its new forest conservation policy follows a long-running campaign by environmentalists, particularly Greenpeace, against the company's deforestation activities in Indonesia.
A report in The Sydney Morning Herald says that APP, the world's third largest paper and packaging company, has cleared nearly 5 million acres of tropical forest in Sumatra, Indonesia since 1994 and about 445,000 acres of carbon-rich peat swamp between 2003 and 2009, including tiger and orangutan habitats.
As part of its commitment, APP and its suppliers will only develop non-forested areas, identified through "high-carbon stock" and "high-conservation value" assessments. Suppliers that don't comply with the guidelines will be suspended.
But a report in The Guardian newspaper notes that APP's focus could omit swaths of forest that have already been compromised, through partial deforestation, for example.
APP Group Chairman Teguh Ganda Wijaya, noting that the decision represents "a major commitment and investment" for the company, said, "we hope our stakeholders will support our new policy, help us along the way and urge other industry players to follow."
APP's group of pulp and paper manufacturing companies in Indonesia and China have an annual combined pulp, paper, and converting products capacity of more than 18 million tons. APP-Indonesia and APP-China market products to more than 120 countries on six continents.
Greenpeace says it had persuaded 100 of APP's biggest customers -- including KFC, Pizza Hut, Xerox and Legos -- to stop buying from APP.
Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace's forest campaign in Indonesia said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the changes at APP, adding that "they are critical if we are to succeed in ending deforestation in Indonesia and beyond."
Maitar said that Greenpeace has "for now" suspended its campaign against APP and will review the company's progress on its commitments.
A two-year moratorium on deforestation announced by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011 is to expire in May.
Scott Poynton, head of the Tropical Forest Trust, the non-governmental organization that helped broker the deal with APP, said: "If the third-largest paper company in the world can commit to forest preservation -- despite the complex social, political, economic and environmental challenges they have to navigate to do so -- then any company can do it.
"Now, there is no excuse for companies -- whether operating in Indonesia, Africa, or other forest-rich regions -- to destroy forests as a consequence of feeding global demand for the goods they produce."